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Semiconductor Physics Group


Electrically Contacting Molecules Using Graphene for Energy Harvesting

Short rigid molecules can now be tailored to have particular electrical and thermal properties. A self-assembled monolayer (SAM) of such molecules could therefore generate electrical power from a temperature gradient across it, “harvesting” waste energy from the environment. The challenge is to contact the top of the monolayer without shorting through to the other electrode. This project will extend our recent work with 5nm nanocrystals to contact molecules deposited on a gold electrode with a graphene electrode lowered on top of them, forming a sandwich structure in which the electrodes are kept apart by the molecules, even though they are just a few nm long. Heat will be applied to the graphene electrode and the voltage generated will be measured. This will require the development of sophisticated device fabrication and measurement techniques. The molecules will be made in Durham with theoretical support from Lancaster. Many aspects of the junctions can be varied to test the physics of device operation and optimise efficiency, and to explore new possibilities, such as superconducting or ferromagnetic electrodes or 2D materials other than graphene.

This project is a collaboration with the Optoelectronics Group (Dept. of Physics) and the Electrical Engineering Division of the Dept. of Engineering. Applicants should demonstrate an understanding of semiconductor physics and quantum mechanics.

A printable (PDF) description of this project is available here (330kB).

For more information, please contact .